Bycatch reduction in the North Sea brown Shrimp beam trawl fishery (39682)

Project Details


The brown shrimp (Crangon crangon) fishery is one of the largest and most important fisheries in the entire North Sea, consisting of an international fleet with around 560 beam trawlers from the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, United Kingdom, Belgium and France. The fishery employs more than 1000 fishermen and has an annual production of more than 100 million euros in revenues. Moreover, the fishery total annual landings are typically between 30000 and 35000 tonnes, with the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark been responsible for the majority of the total annual landings, approximately 90% since the mid-1980s.

Despite being an important fishery in the North Sea, the brown shrimp fishery is one of the least regulated fisheries in European waters. In this fishery, no Total Allowable Catch or fishing-effort restrictions are set for this species by the European Union fisheries management, while the minimum landing size is based on market preferences, where a minimal marketable size of 50 mm is used for brown shrimp.

However, under the European Union (EU) Regulation No 850/98 it is mandatory to use sieve nets to reduce bycatch of larger individuals and codends with a minimum diamond mesh size of 16 mm, although most vessels currently use 24 mm mesh size as part of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) brown shrimp management plan. This MSC certification of the fishery was obtained in December 2017 by the Dutch, German, and Danish brown shrimp fisheries following a joint certification process initiated in 2016 by the producer organizations of these countries. 

Even though the fishery is currently MSC certified, issues were identified regarding high levels of bycatch during the evaluation process. The fishing takes place mainly on coastal areas with sandy bottom, where large amounts of juvenile fishes occur during different periods of the year, including quota regulated species such as whiting, herring, sprat and plaice. Therefore, depending on the season, fishing area and composition of the population encountered by the fleet, a large proportion of the catch can be composed of bycatch. To address this issue, the Dutch, German and Danish joint self-management plan highlighted the need for development of methods to properly monitor and reduce the bycatch. 

Meanwhile, the fishery obtained a de minimis exemption from the landing obligation, conditional to the reduction of bycatches of quota regulated species in the fishery from 7% in 2019 and 2020 to 6% in 2021. Without the de minimis exemption, the current bycatch level of quota regulated species would be a problem for the brown shrimp fishery, as the majority of the vessels in the fleet do not own quotas for the different fish species. If these vessels were to buy quotas for their bycatch, the brown shrimp fishery would most likely considerably reduce its profitability. Therefore, there is the need to not only develop gears that can reduce but also to properly document the bycatch in the brown shrimp fishery.

The project aims at
1. Developing and establishing a well-functioning and well-documented bycatch monitoring program in the fishery that can properly estimate the total annual bycatch of quoted fish species. 
2. Identifying what bycatch species are problematic regarding the de minimis exemption. 3. Developing bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) that effectively reduce the bycatch of juveniles of fish species in the North Sea brown shrimp fishery, with focus on the species identified as most problematic. 

Overall, the project aims at providing scientific and technological knowledge that will ensure the fishery does not exceed the de minimis exemption obtained under the Landing Obligation and the (Marine Stewardship Council) MSC certification.

DTU Aqua, National Institute of Aquatic Resources (coordinator)

This project is funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the Danish Fisheries Agency.

Research area: Fisheries Technology
Research area: Marine Living Resources
Effective start/end date14/06/201911/10/2021


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